Australian Climate Protester Who Spray-Painted Artwork Contests Counter-Terrorism Charge
A climate activist in Australia is fighting a counter-terrorism charge she received after spray-painting an artwork at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth this past January.
The Guardianreports that Joana Veronika Partyka is continuing to face legal fallout after having pled guilty to criminally damaging a Frederick McCubbin painting. She had spray-painted the logo for Woodside Energy, a company whose gas project on the Burrup Peninsula of Western Australia has long been controversial. Activists have raised concerns about the ecological implications of the project, known as Scarborough, and claimed that it could also impact Murujuga rock art that dates back centuries.
The McCubbin painting has been owned by the museum since 1896. Partyka’s protest was also complemented by that of another activist, who glued themselves to a nearby wall while yet another unfurled an Aboriginal flag. Both were there to protest with a group known as Disrupt Burrup Hub.
Detractors of the protest claimed that the action imperiled the painting, which has been valued at $3 million. But because it is exhibited under Perspex, the work itself was not damaged.
McCubbin’s descendants even defended the protestors, with his granddaughter telling the Guardian, “He would have laughed out loud and supported this very clever protest, which has not harmed his painting in any way and has opened an important conversation.”
Authorities in Western Australia read the situation differently. The fined Partyka $2,637 and made her pay the museum $4,821.08.
Partyka claimed that, in February, her personal belongings were raided after she had declined to give access to her electronic devices. She has pled not guilty to failing to adhere to an order to allow access to her data and has called the raid an example of “state-sanctioned overreach.” A one-day trial has been scheduled for September 11.
Her case comes as climate protestors across the globe face legal consequences for their actions in art spaces. German authorities have promised a “significant” fine on the activists who glued themselves to a Rubens painting in Munich, and two Belgian activists were given prison time for a similar action involving Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in the Hague. Meanwhile, outside art spaces, Italian politicians are seeking fines for protestors who took to public statues during recent actions.